Garry Wills, whose most recent book is What the Qur’an Meant: And Why It Matters, is the 2018 commencement speaker at Zaytuna College, the first accredited Muslim campus in America. (June 2018)


Our Moloch

The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily—sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence.


The Art of the Schmooze

Studs Terkel, 2004; photographs by Nancy Crampton
Studs Terkel, who died in 2008, is best remembered, if at all, by Americans at large for his popular and prize-winning books of oral history—nine of them, from Division Street (1967) to Hope Dies Last (2003). But we Chicagoans remember him more vividly for his large presence in our city over the last half of the twentieth century.

A Wild and Indecent Book

Max Ernst: The Virgin Chastising the Christ Child Before Three Witnesses: André Breton, Paul Éluard, and the Painter, 1926

The New Testament: A Translation

by David Bentley Hart
It was subtle of God to learn Greek when he wished to become an author, and not to learn it better. —Friedrich Nietzsche on the New Testament At last a man comes riding to the rescue of the English Bible. Condemning earlier translations of the New Testament, David Bentley Hart …

Big Rocket Man

Donald Trump
Donald Trump has threatened “Little Rocket Man” with “fire and fury like the world has never seen”—not even seen, presumably, at Hiroshima or Nagasaki. We possess, after all, many more and much better (that is, much worse) explosives than were used by President Truman in 1945, when he incinerated those cities without Congress or the American people knowing we even had them. The fact that President Trump (“old lunatic”) has a legally absolute power to destroy Kim Jong-un (“short and fat”) over dueling insults is so scary that Senator Edward Markey and Representative Ted Lieu are trying to restrict that absolute power, so that only Congress would have the authority to declare nuclear war. This seems not only reasonable but constitutionally necessary. The Constitution in fact denies the president the power to declare war and reserves it solely to Congress. More than that, the framers clearly opposed the massing of power in the executive—lest it become the monarchy they had opposed with a revolution.

Where Evangelicals Came From

Donald Trump posing for photographs after he delivered the convocation at Liberty University, an evangelical university in Lynchburg, Virginia, January 2016

The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America

by Frances FitzGerald
Every few years, it seems, conservative religious groups, quiescent or unnoticed, come blazing back onto the national scene, and the secular press reacts like the bad guy in the 1971 western Big Jake who says to John Wayne, “I thought you were dead.” Wayne drily answers, “Not hardly.” Now, in The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America, Frances FitzGerald answers the recurrent question, “Where did these people come from?” She says there is no mystery involved. They were always here. We were just not looking at them.


Resistance Means More Than Voting

The purse of an attendee at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee rally addressed by President Barack Obama, Anaheim, California, September 8, 2018

How long must the list of Trump’s anti-democratic outrages grow before we hope that resistance be mounted openly, secretly, immediately, effectively? President Obama says we must wait until we can vote. After all, in a matter of weeks, we may vote in a House of Representatives that may impeach the president. But it is doubtful that we will elect a Senate that can convict the president. Vote, of course. But there is no reason to think that voting is the sole allowable form of resistance. What if the laws are not only unjust but framed and upheld by measures that baffle democratic correction?

The Priesthood of The Big Crazy

Survivors and activists of Ending Clergy Abuse, a new international organization against the child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Geneva, Switzerland, June 7, 2018

Priests are set apart, by celibacy, by sacramental powers. They are privileged, and they do not want to give up such influence. When dangers to their status come up, they must mute or minimize the dangers. Many victims of abuse by priests have made the mistake of reporting their charges to a bishop. They should have gone straight to a secular authority. To expect from the celibate clergy either candor or good sense on sexual matters is a fool’s game. The laity should reclaim its centrality in the church.

The Emperor’s Hairdo

A waxwork of President Donald Trump, Madame Tussauds, London, January 18, 2017

What would happen to Donald Trump if he lost his hair (or what passes for it)? The first thing is that he would save a great deal of time in the creation and maintenance of such an artifact. It’s amazing what forty minutes here and forty minutes there adds up to, day by day, week by week. He would, furthermore, gain all the time he has to spend finding out what people say about his hair, his wonderful attractiveness, his non-loser look.



The script, written by the film’s director Tom McCarthy and the academic- and-showbiz marvel Josh Singer, is amazing in its mastery of the complex material, since many strands converged for the paper to break the hold of the hierarchy over the city.